How To Ask For Directions in Italian

Phrases and vocabulary words for when you get lost in Italy

Couple trekking in Val Formazza
Couple trekking in Val Formazza. Buena Vista Images

Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel is around the corner. Or so you thought the sign said until you ended up lost and without any idea how to get where you wanted to be.

Avoid missing the highlights of Italy with these simple phrases and keywords for asking for directions in Italian.

Vocabulary

Let’s start with some must know vocabulary words. Some of the most common words you’ll encounter are:

  • Camminare - To walk
  • Girare - To turn
  • Fermare - To stop
  • Diritto (dritto) - Straight
  • A destra - Right
  • A sinistra - Left
  • Nord - North
  • Sud - South
  • Ovest - West
  • Est - East
  • Vicino - Close
  • Lontano - Far

When giving directions in Italian, the Imperative mood is used. For the most common verbs listed above, the Imperative mood is as follows:

  • Andare – (tu) VAI/va’, (lui, lei, Lei) vada, (voi) andate
  • Camminare – (tu) cammina, (lui, lei, Lei) cammini, (voi) camminate
  • Girare – (tu) gira, (lui, lei, Lei) giri, (voi) girate
  • Fermare – (tu) ferma, (lui, lei, Lei) fermi, (voi) fermate

Besides this keyword vocabulary, it is also important to know how to describe where something can be found. In English these types of directions would translate to, “The bar is around the corner” or “It is in front of the market.”

Phrases

In Italian instead, you want to use these descriptive directional phrases:

  • Vicino a - Close to / near / nearby

  • Dietro a - Behind

  • All’angolo con - At the corner of

  • Davanti a (di fronte a) - In front of / across from

  • All’incrocio con - At the intersection of

  • Accanto a - Next to

Additionally, the following sentences are worth memorizing and will ensure you get the right directions every time.

  • Mi sono perso/a, Lei può aiutarmi? - I am lost, can you help me?
  • Cerco… - I am looking for…

    - Il teatro - The theater

    - La stazione - The train station

    - Il supermercato - The supermarket

    - Un ristorante - A restaraunt

    - Un bagno - A bathroom

    - L’aeroporto - The airport

  • Quant'è lontano a...? - How far is it to...
  • Dove sono i gabinetti? - Where is the bathroom? (polite way to ask in a public place)
  • Dov'è il bagno? - Where is the bathroom?
  • Posso usare il bagno, per favore? - Can I use the bathroom, please?
  • Me lo può indicare sulla mappa/cartina, per favore? - Can you show me on the map, please?

Typical responses to requests for directions include:

  • A destra - Right
  • A sinistra - Left
  • Vicino - Near
  • Lontano - Far
  • Gira a - Turn to
  • Il primo/la prima a destra - First on the right
  • Il secondo/la seconda a sinistra - Second on the left

Some more handy tips:

  1. Often times, when asked where something is, Italians will answer “Vada sempre diritto!”  It means "Straight ahead!"

  2. One kilometer (or un chilometro in Italian) = 0.62 miles.

  3. If you can't find what you're looking for, enjoy what you've found. Sometimes when traveling, the best experiences happen serendipitously.

 

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Filippo, Michael San. "How To Ask For Directions in Italian." ThoughtCo, Nov. 24, 2016, thoughtco.com/how-to-ask-for-directions-in-italian-2011154. Filippo, Michael San. (2016, November 24). How To Ask For Directions in Italian. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/how-to-ask-for-directions-in-italian-2011154 Filippo, Michael San. "How To Ask For Directions in Italian." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/how-to-ask-for-directions-in-italian-2011154 (accessed November 23, 2017).